It's not often I post on this subject, maybe I should be a bit more brave and do so more often, because certainly I have my views on it. Today though I shall do so anyway.
I make no secret of the fact that I am a Christian. It's not something I scream at the top of my voice, maybe it is to my own discredit that I don't. At the same time though I certainly do not hide it and would definately not deny it. If someone asks I tell them, if the circumstances are such that it is relevant I will volunteer the fact. What I am trying to say is that I am certainly no evangelical, I think my calling lies elsewhere.
I am not, however, a bog standard Christian. Although I have my beliefs I understand that ultimately they require a leap of faith. I cannot prove in a purely rational and scientific manner that God exists or that Jesus was the son of God. Equally no one can prove the opposite through raional or scientific means. To believe otherwise is equally a leap of faith. And that is why I try, where ever possible, to show respect to those of other faiths, no faith and those that simply don't know. In which ever way we jump we all make that same leap, even if it is in a different direction.
If you want to enter into debate with me about why I believe differently to you I will happily do so, over the net, over a cup of tea (although mine's a hot chocolate or hot squash if you're offering!) or a pint down the pub. And I would like to think I can do so in a manner that would be in no way insulting, nor would I criticise you for your beliefs. It also means that I would never wish to stand in your way should your way of life run contrary to what may be seen as a Christian way of dong things (although I should add I do stand at the very liberal extreme of Christianity, I live unmarried with my other half and am quite happy to continue to do so).
So what is the point of all this rambling on?
The point is this, I wish that more people, of all religions, and those of none, could try adopting the same approach. I get so tired of hearing the sniping that goes on between members of different faiths (and indeed between different branches of the same faith). Virtually every religion you can name ultimately teaches the same thing, in terms of way of life as oposed to theology, which boils down to try and be nice to each other! So it becomes highly frustrating when the healthy intellectual debate that I refer to above turns in to people hurling abuse at each other. Ultimately this leads to the kind of conflict we see in the Middle East, but it also happens on a much lower level.
I have a link on this page to the blog written be Hecate, an American Pagan. Much of what she writes about, particularly with respect to the environment and the war in Iraq, I whole heartedly agree with and sympathise with the way on which memebers of her religion often feel discriminated against. Yet equally, one recent post of hers regarding a Conservative Catholic who was upset by a chocolate image of Jesus (and to be fare this individual does seem to have gone off totally at the deep end, he seems to have read a lot more in to the whole thing that was necessary or intended) was unconstructive in trying to bridge this gap.
If Hecate is this reading this then I want to be clear that I'm not just picking on her! I'm sure that nearly all of us are guilty at times of being rather unhelpful in our words and actions at times in bridging that gap between different faiths, and I include myself in that. As we approach a time when Christians celebrate the corner stone of their religion (part of which has been blatantly pinched of pagans, I acknowledge that!) perhaps it is a good time reflect on how our words can affect others.
Whatever your view on Jesus I'm sure no one can disagree with the thought "Love thy neighbour". But maybe we should also try to respect our neighbours too.